Thai AirAsia X has completely pulled out of the Middle East, a market that appears unready for TAAX's long-haul, low-cost business model.
The airline, part of Asia's biggest no-frills airline group, is axing Bangkok-Muscat and Bangkok-Tehran routes launched in June this year, due to poor traffic demand at both ends of the each of the routes.
The termination of Bangkok-Muscat takes effect on Jan 19 and the suspension of Bangkok-Tehran flights became effective on Dec 5, according to insiders.
TAAX has struggled to keep the two routes afloat by rationalising capacities to match actual demand.
In November, the carrier reduced the frequency of service on both routes to two flights a week, the minimum level acceptable by the market, down from three flights a week at launch.
TAAX deploys Airbus 330-300 wide-body jets configured with 377 seats on all its routes. The arrangement did not work out well, leading TAAX to terminate Middle East flights altogether.
When TAAX inaugurated its Tehran flight on June 22 and Muscat service on June 28, the airline became the first low-cost carrier to offer regular non-stop services on those routes.
TAAX's departure means that all connections between Bangkok and the two Middle Eastern capitals will be handled by full-service airlines.
Bangkok-Tehran flights are operated by Iran-based Mahan Airlines and Thai Airways International (THAI), which commenced service in October.
The non-stop Bangkok-Muscat flights are flown by Oman Air, while Thai Airways offers regular services to the Omani capital with a stopover in Karachi.
Insiders said the poor performance by TAAX was in sharp contrast with a rosy outlook perceived earlier this year.
TAAX chief executive Nadda Buranasiri said in May the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran in January had turned Tehran into a new economic frontier and an emerging tourism market.
"There seemed to be strong initial demand for both routes, but it tapered off to become unsustainable eventually," said an insider who asked to remain anonymous.
In a release, TAAX apologised for ending its Middle Eastern services and offered full refunds for affected passengers.